Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The Wedding Dress

Wow, two posts in one day! Must be a new year or something ;)

Well this is long over due and promised to my Twitter friend, @Claire_Monster. So, Claire this is for you.

I got married on 1st September 2012 in a beautiful setting in Suffolk. I decided to make my own wedding dress and knew from the start that I wanted something vintage. Initially, I was going to make a simple 1930s bias dress in ivory satin, but after a trip to some bridal shops (I wanted the experience of dress shopping with my Mum and bridesmaids) I was instantly converted to the idea of lace.

'Mrs Szabo' - Back of the dress

I decided on a dress that would be made in two parts. The under dress would be strapless and have three layers: satin, cotton lawn, lining and then a boned attached corselette made from canvas and rigilene boning with a concealed zip fastening. The outer dress would be made from corded lace and would be fastened by buttons. The two dresses would not be attached so that the lace flowed naturally as I walked. The under dress would consist of princess seams that would run from hem to bust. The lace dress would be the same with the addition of shoulders, v-neck and little dainty capped sleeves hemmed using the edging of the lace.

I drafted the entire pattern myself - which took a LONG time. There was a lot of tweaking to do primarily on the inner corset and on getting the fit of the sloped back just right. I had never made a corset before or worked with boning so it was all very new to me. I can't give enough thanks to the women at The Sewing Forum who answered my endless questions. One amazing member even sent me a great tutorial on how to construct and add the boning successfully. This was probably one of the most stressful bits. Drafting, cutting, fitting, drafting, cutting, fitting. At times, I had no idea why the corset wasn't fitting properly - at this initial stage it was essential to try and erase as many wrinkles as possible. Yet, at that time this felt impossible and tears were shed! I persevered though and finally cracked it.

"I do!" A close up of the dress

Once I had finally tweaked the fit of the corset, I could then continue to draft the additional pattern pieces, which were basically the corset but extended with length. The bottom of the dress flared out slightly in an A line at the front and then into a small puddle train at the back. I love these tiny little trains, and feel they have that beautiful vintage feel without being over the top. Overall I had pattern pieces for the corset, the under dress and the top dress. The lace dress was, in the end, made differently. I couldn't work out how I would applique the princess seams on the lace going over the bust into the armhole without causing myself a big headache of problems. So in the end, I separated the top dress into two garments: bodice and skirt and these were attached at the waist using an applique seam which was then covered with a satin belt.

I then made the entire dress as a toile using muslin and old net curtains I found in Oxfam. My Mum then helped me check the final fit (I needed long gadget hands to reach the back!) and once that was fine I was good to start cutting the fashion fabric! How nervous I was....!

One of my favourite photos from our amazing
photographer - Emma Guillory

The construction of the corset was relatively okay. I think all the pain and effort of getting the fit right in the toile really helped. It was difficult sewing the canvas and maybe I would have used a lighter canvas, but I managed to still ease the princess seam okay. I just paid for it with holes in my fingers! I used satin bias binding to create the boning channels and rigilene for the boning. I toyed between rigilene or spiral steel but in the end I went for rigilene as 1) I wasn't sewing the rigilene onto the fabric and 2) my dress was not styled to be completely tight/fitted or a strapless dress. The lace would have shoulders and sleeve. I only wanted gently boning to give me a nice shape and form under the lace.

Here is a pic of the inner side of the corset. This is one of the boning channels, cross stitched down to keep it in place - which was a great tip from the Sewing Forum. You'll see I did sew some rigilene onto the canvas - this was just the rigilene that didn't cover a seam. I finished the end with some satin to prevent any rubbing on my skin.

Once the corset was done, I could move on to constructing the satin. I used a lovely soft duchess satin that had a lot of drape to it. I bought this from Platinum Fabrics and was really pleased with the feel. It also had a matt sheen to it as I didn't want a traditional shiny satin under the lace. I was surprised that I could find exactly what I wanted! This satin also sewed really well and I only had minimal puckering in places. If I had to do this dress again I probably would not have sewed the cotton lawn and the satin together as one piece but instead have them as separate layers. But, this was my first wedding dress and it was a brilliant learning curve. For the lining I used Bremsilk - it's more expensive, but it's alot better than usual lining and more breathable. Unfortunately, buying online can be annoying. The Bremsilk that turned up was alot more transparent than I would have liked, but as this dress was for me I didn't mind. If I was making it for someone else I may have opted for something else that fully hid the construction underneath.

I have always loved lace but I have never worked with it before. I must admit, in hindsight, the style of dress I went for did present me with a huge challenge. Applique seams! I had never ever done this before let alone with lace. I could have machined them normally but I really didn't want seams showing. The lace was so pretty, I wanted it to look like it was one entire piece. But, with the help of the very awesome (but expensive!) Bridal Couture book by Susan Khalje and a lot of googling, I managed to work it out.

This is a shot of the bodice where I appliquéd the darts. I managed to achieve an invisible dart line. Note how I had to cut around the motifs so I didn't have a straight waist line. This was so that when I connected the bodice to the skirt I could try and do it as invisibly as possible by overlapping the motifs.

The lace was very time-consuming for lots of reasons. Making sure my hands were clean, making sure I didn't screw up and snip the wrong bit, making sure my machine didn't get caught up...so many things had to be taken into consideration. But it was totally worth it. I loved the lace I found. I bought it in Goldhawk Road in Shepherd's Bush and found it for 45 pounds per metre. It was a beautiful ivory colour and was such good quality. I ended up buying just under 6 metres (end of roll) and had some left over.

The lace had a really great scallop edging, which I used to on my sleeves, neck line and the entire hem of the dress. With my Mum's help I spent ages getting the length right on the satin under dress so that the scalloped hem would be more visible, as it's longer. I loved this feature especially as the puddle train  moved along the floor as I walked.

Here are a couple of pics of me, and with my husband. You can see the way the dress hung at the back. I loved this!

Before I got married I went to New York and made a trip to the awesome Mood Fabrics, as featured in Project Runway. I really wanted to find something for my dress there and was so happy to find the perfect button/brooch for the bottom of the v-neck. I fell in love with this - it gave the dress that bit of 'bling' yet in keeping with the style. Here it is:

For the buttons on the back - I used a great company based in Scotland (Bridal Covered Buttons) as I wanted the buttons to be in the same satin as my dress. After all my hard work, I couldn't risk a mismatch! So I sent them my left over satin and they made all my little dome shaped buttons for me. They were absolutely perfect. I then went and found a vintage style bronze button from my local haberdashery (Dalston Mill Fabrics), which had a small diamante stone in the centre and I used this as the top button at my neck just to give an extra feature. It looked so great and a really delicate addition, that looked vintage.

I used the same company to also make my belt. I could have done this I know, but I had reached the end of my sewing fuel tank and just could not even do a simple task of making a small belt. Also my husband-to-be having dealt with my stress levels said, YES, please get someone else to make it! Ha!

I didn't want to over do the accessories as I really don't wear alot of jewellery anyway. For my earrings I found some perfect drop earrings from Swarvoski that matched my engagement ring. I also found a bracelet from Monsoon that was in a similar style.

I had my done in a vintage style, pulled over to the side and finished with an art deco comb. I couldn't believe my luck when I found this comb in Peacocks for 4 pounds! I thought I would be spending about 60 pounds on that alone!

I hope you like my dress - any questions please feel free to ask. Making my wedding dress is one of my greatest achievements. I felt so proud walking down the aisle knowing that all those months had been totally worth it. I felt really beautiful on the day and so proud of myself. Unfortunately, the dress got so dirty at the bottom (perils of getting married in the countryside on a farm!) and my shoes were a total write off, but it was the perfect day and setting, and a good send off to a true labour of love!

'I love you til the end' 


  1. Wow! Your gown is beautiful. Just beautiful. And Congratulations.

  2. Thank you! Really blown away by the amazing comments I have received tonight. :)

  3. That's so awesome. I love the sewing community. I love seeing things like your gown. It's super inspiring.

  4. Your dress looks gorgeous - amazing. That back detail is just beautiful. Congratulations - on the marriage and making your own wedding dress!

  5. Beautiful-you've put so much time and effort into this and the results show it. Congratulations (both on getting married and on successfully making a fabulous dress).

  6. All of the time and effort that you put into it definitely paid off! Your dress is beautiful!

  7. wow, i bow down to you, oh queen of sewing. That dress is amazing!

  8. Ah, I finally get the chance to read this after book-making it after 'discovering' you from twitter. It's a stunningly gorgeous dress which doesn't even look the slightest bit home made - and by golly goodness you look so wonderful in it! A true labour of love, and you're definitely an inspiration as I start to think about making my own... Thanks!!

    1. Ahhh thank you! Good luck on making your own, it's hard work (mainly because of the pressure) but it's so worth it. Let me know if you have any questions. x